A Quick Look at Aing-chin Poems in Myanmar

Maung Phyo (WYU)

Aing-chin is a Myanmar literary genre flourished from early Nyaung Yan Era to Kongbaung Era in Myanmar. It is pastoral by nature. It was closely associated with the rural class in ancient Myanmar. It falls into two different categories such as Thone-daunt aing and Yapyae aing. Discrepancy among the categories largely belongs to region of origin, chronological distinctiveness and the class it represents. Thone-Daunt-aing is so termed owing to its origin: Thone-Daunt Village. Yapyae-aing derived from the fact that it was created in commemoration or coincidence with the year 1100 Myanmar Era. It is thought that the paddy-planting maidens chanted Aing-chins to relieve themselves of their fatigue while at work.
As for the theme of the aing-chin, Dr. Hla Pe put them under the category of lament or song of lament. It is, he said, because an aing-chin, as its name suggests, is lamentation usually of a girl over her misfortunes.
As it is primarily for the village-folks, its rhyming scheme is comparatively loose. Rhyme is mostly internal in many cases. It always starts with the phrase ‘’ခ်စ္တဲ့သူငယ္ေလ သူငယ္ခ်င္းေကာင္း ေယာက္မတိုု႔ေလ’’ which could be literally translated into English as ‘O Dear Friends and Sisters’’. It is primarily written by the female poets or poetesses like Taungdwin Shin Nyein Me and Mae Khwe. Of the aing-chin poetesses, Taungdwin Shin Nyein Me has contributed so many to the world of Myanmar poetry that her name is inseparable from aing-chin in Myanmar. Her style is pleasantly amusing and sounds virtually cheerful even when the theme is agonistic. The tone is somewhat jolly and sometimes sarcastic but always subtly done. It can also be said that its appearance rightly opportune with its historical panorama.
In essence, it carries feminine nostalgia. However, the male poets also composed aing-chins both in Nyaung Yan and early Kongbaung Era. In the light of the textual references available so far, aing-chin poets cover Taungdwin Shin Nyein Me, Me Khwe. King Wun Min Gyi, Lay Daung Maung Hla, consort of Razadarit (whether he is a king or a courtier is not yet clear) and anonymous poets. It was in Nyaung Yan and Kongbaung Periods that aing-chins had been in vogue among the rural mass. Aing-chins associate very closely with human nature and his environment. It reads very pleasant with the use of explicit lexes. It is in total free from equivocal tone. It is found to be able to tune into the heart of both the composers and the chanters at ease.
To begin with the historical background, the Nyaungyan Era is full of military activities. Such historical significances are traced in the poems. Albeit the poem is perfumed with romance between the village lad and lass, its romantic singularity is always coated with a call of duty. The heroes in the poem proved to be very simple and straightforward but at the same time, responsible and accountable. The heroines themselves might turn out to be very crude in nature but at the same time, understanding and shrewd judge of character. The female characters in the poems are sheer critics of their alter egos. They are blunt and directive in speech. They are ready to shower praise on an act of valor and also come forward to condemn cowardice in any form. For instance, in the following ancient aing-chin,

‘’စုုန္မည္ဆိုုလည္း စုုန္မည့္ရက္ကိုု ဆက္ဆက္မဆိုု
ဆန္မည္ဆိုုလည္း ဆန္မည့္ရက္ကိုု ဆက္ဆက္မဆိုု
တီးသည့္ေစာင္းႏွင့္ ေလာင္းသည့္ၾကက္ကိုု ဖက္ကာငိုုသည္
ေမာင့္ကိုု ကုုန္သြားထည့္သလားေတာ္’’
The lass in the poem seemed to feel impatient about her lover’s indetermination or disheartenment towards an assigned duty. In this respect, she blurted out like
‘’Never say, you, when to sail down
Never say, you, when to sail up,
Embracing your favorite harp
and fighting cock,
You cry and mourn.
Is it you to be traded for?’’
Sometimes, she felt encouraged by her lover’s bravery and duty-consciousness. On this vein, she tended to remark like,

‘’သူမ်ားေမာင္မွာ စစ္သံၾကားလ်ွင္ နာဖ်ားဥပါယ္ခိုုၾကတယ္
ႏွမေလး မယ္တိုု႔ေမာင္မွာ စစ္သံၾကားလ်ွင္ ေရႊဓါးပိုုက္ကာ အုုိးစားဖက္ကိုု လိုုက္လိုု႔ရွာသည္”

In English, it should be like
‘’Upon duty-call to military service,
Others’ lovers evade,
Lo! with his sword,
My darling always fling into it
Searching for his comrades.’’
Aing-chins are very simple in the description of character. They adhere to no pretense in order to dramatize the characters and the plot. Aing-chins stands very close to Nature. It never attempts to deviate from the human nature in the composition as it is. Such is the beauty of it.
In the following aing-chin, a surge of dissatisfaction towards her lover’s inefficiency was brought to the fore in the poetess’ curse spelt upon a village old hag,

‘’ခ်စ္တဲ့သူငယ္ေလ သူငယ္ခ်င္းေကာင္း ေယာက္မတိုု႔ေလ
ရွင္လူထြက္သစ္ ဆယ့္သံုုးႏွစ္က ခ်စ္တဲ့သူကိုု
အယူတျခား မိေထြးမ်ားက ဆီးတားဆိုု
ရစ္ကိုုေထာင္ကာ ထားရတယ္။
ႏြမ္းနယ္တေစ့ ေရွးကပါ ၾကမၼာေငြ႔ေၾကာင့္
မေတြ႔ရတာ ၾကာေတာင့္ၾကာမွ
သူလည္းအလာ မယ္သာအေမ်ွာ္ ေန၀င္ေက်ာ္
ေဒြးေတာ္ၿခံပါး ေတာင္နားဆီသိုု႔ ယာသြားပိုု႔ျပန္
ေစာင္းလ်ားၿခံႏွင့္ လက္ပံပင္ေရွ႕
က်ဥ္းေျမာင္းေကြ႕ ေတြ႔ေသာအခါ
မယ္ကေပးတဲ့ ပိုုးေသးမည္းပါ
ပုုဆိုုးျပာလည္မွာရစ္လိုု႔ ဖြင့္လွစ္ကယ္မဆိုု
မယ့္ေက်ာျပင္ဖက္ လက္တင္ယွက္လိုု႔
ေမာင့္ကိုု စိမ္းကား မယ္ႏွမ ကဆိုုသလား။
တိုု႔ခ်စ္ျခင္းကိုု ကြင္းေအာင္တေစ ေန႔တိုုင္းေမႊတဲ့
သက္ႀကီး၀န္တိုု ျမင္တိုုင္းမုုန္းစရာ့ ကုုန္းမအုုိ

‘’O Dear Friends and Sisters!
My Mi Htwes objected,
As they disagree to our love,
Since puberty we fostered,
So have the spin I kept,
Leaning it against a corner,
And, weaving I ceased.
As if fated, we haven’t met for long,
Thus, for each other’s face so we mourn.
We came across today,
At a narrow corner in front of Let-pan tree,
Near the carambola plantation,
On my return from the southward of Dwaydaw’s farm,
Scarfing a blue longyi with black pattern,
That I presented him,
He made no speech but wept.
He blurted, putting his arms around my shoulders,
“Everything was over between us? So did you say?”
O Old hag!! Hateful and a source of disgust,
You sought to separate us each and every day.
Then, in return, I say,
‘’May you dehydrate to death!’’”
(Translated by the author)
Traditional beliefs and superstitions are reflected in some poems. The rural folks were open-minded and outspoken in social dealing and plain and lucid in their way of life. They were conformists to the traditions, rituals and even superstitions. However, the poetess’ beautiful imagery can be traced in her use of red flower epitomizing virginity. She proved as tactful and witty as William Blake’s ‘’The Sick Rose’’ personified by virginity or civilization. Blake composed it round about 1789 and was thus far more modern than Shin Nyein Mae who had pioneered the floral personification very senior to her English Counterparts. See the following poem,

သူငယ္ခ်င္းေကာင္း ေယာက္မတိုု႔ေလ။
ေႏွာပင္ႀကီးမွာ ေႏွာသီးေၾကြလ်ွင္ ေလေပြတိုက္လိုု႔၀ဲတတ္တယ္။
စေနၿဂိဳလ္စား ႀကံဳခိုုက္မ်ားမွာ
ခ်ရားသစ္ပင္ စိုုက္ပ်ိဳးလ်ွင္
အင္ခြင္ဥစၥာ နည္းတတ္တယ္။
အမယ္မွာသည့္ နတ္ပန္းပြင့္တဲ့
အတင့္ငယ္မွ ရဲခ်င္
မိဘစကား နား၀မ၀င္
ထီမထင္ဘဲ ႀကိဳ႕ပင္ႀကီးေျမာက္
ပိေတာက္ပင္ေတာင္ ပေညာင္ပင္ေရွ႕
ေနမလွန္းတဲ့ ပန္းလြင္လြင္ကိုု
ရႊင္လိုုျမဴးလိုု ကစားလိုု၍
၀ါဆိုုဦးက ပန္ဖူးတယ္
သည္မယ္မွာ အရင္လူႏွင့္လြဲရတယ္ရွင္
အပ်ိဳျဖဴ ငယ္ကကၽြမ္းပါတဲ့

“Dear Friends and Sisters….
Don’t ever wear red flowers.
Mother said: “They are fairy flowers”.
If you choose to be daring
And, setting your heart on a frolic,
Put them on your head,
You will be parted from your first love.
To the words of my parents and grand parents,
I did not pay heed;
Yes, I slighted their warning.
North of the great gyo-tree,
South of the Paduak-tree
“At the foot of the great banyan tree,
Coming back from the paddy planting,
By the Htein tree pool
I saw it as I came,
The bright gleaming flower sheltered from the sun.
In sport with mirthful intent
At the beginning of lent,
I decked myself with it.
Alas! Woe is me!
Before the month of Tawthalin,
When the Yin-ma tree was in flower
And the rainy season had
Changed into the winter of that year
I was parted from my first love.”
(Translated by Dr. Hla Pe)
Aing-chins are unique in their originality in Myanmar Literature. They are purely native to Myanmar. They are not followers of Sanskrit verses like others. It can be regarded that they have been born out of the locals’ poetic urge. Artistic elements in aing-chins are wonderful. Description of the village maidens always carries both physical and mental images. Folk elements, memories and cultures are always pleasantly recalled. Simple and short-to-the-point language use looks remarkable. Therefore, aing-chins should be termed as ideals of the Myanmar poems.
Hla Pe, Dr. Burmese Poetry. JBRS, LIV, i and ii, Dec, 1971.
Tin, U. Kabyabandathara. Seikku Cho Cho Publishing. 2013
Shwe Thein Min, Ko. Anthology of Ancient Myanmar Poems. Pan Shwe Pyi Publishing. October, 2012.

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Editor of Myanmar Cultural Research Journal,

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